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admiring eyes / student projects

In 1965, photographer Hayashida Teruyoshi, born and raised in Aoyama, published Take Ivy, a book that has become a cult item in the world of clean cut jet-set men’s fashion. Morphing its title from Dave Brubeck’s Take Five, it introduced a kind of jazz-adjacent fashion that differed even from the kinds of jazz then entering the Tokyo scene through John Coltrane and other free improvisers (Coltrane first visited Japan in 1964). Take Ivy is a series of photos and essays taken on a road trip through the 8 Ivy League campuses (except for Penn and Cornell). If you wanted to, you could probably trace a line from here to the (much much more wan, in my opinion…) garb and vibe of the jazz aficionados in Murakami Haruki’s consumer worlds.

Last year, Powerhouse Books put out a new edition with an English translation.  The book is essentially a replica, except for the new translation—it preserves the original type, layout, and scrupulously ethnographic tone of the text…

"It appeared to us that Ivy Leaguers are big fans of classic cars. In particular, a Packard attracts their admiring eyes."

(This photo also appeared in a longer spread in GQ a few months ago.) Two of the writers were connected to the Japanese fashion brand VAN jacket, which introduced Ivy style and made the t-shirt a garment suitable for streetwear.

Here I quote at length from David Marx’ excellent breakdown of the Miyuki-zoku subculture that took up Ivy fashion when it first hit Tokyo, and became popularized with the new magazine Heibon Punch. Marx makes an interesting connection between the street sweeps that went along with prepping Tokyo for its Olympic visitors in 1964, redeeming the nation from the ignoble cancellation of the Games in 1940, the heyday of wartime. Though these kids are from the “right” side of the tracks, it seems, I also can’t help but note a bit of zoot suit-like defiance in the exactitude of pant length, closed circle back-to-the-camera stance, and legs akimbo slouch …

…[Heibon Punch] was targeted to Japan’s growing number of wealthy urban youth, and part of its editorial mission was to tell kids how to dress. The editors advocated the Ivy League Look, which at the time was basically only available in the form of domestic brand VAN. Kensuke Ishizu of VAN had discovered the look in the 1950s and pushed it as an alternative to the slightly thuggish big-shouldered, high-waisted, mismatched jacket-and-pants look that dominated Japanese men’s style throughout the 1950s. As an imported look, Ivy League fashion felt cutting-edge and sophisticated to Tokyo teens, and this fit perfectly with Heibon Punch’s mission of giving Baby Boomers a style of their own.

When the magazine arrived in the spring 1964, readers all went out and became Ivy adherents. Parents and authorities, however, were hardly thrilled with a youth tribe of American style enthusiasts. The first strike against the Miyuki-zoku is that the guys — gasp! — would blow dry their hair. This was seen as a patently feminine thing to do.

More critically, the Miyuki-zoku picked the wrong summer to hang out in Ginza. Japan was preparing for the 1964 Olympics, which would commence in October. Tokyo was in the process of removing every last eyesore — wooden garbage cans, street trolleys, the homeless — anything that would possibly be offending to foreign visitors. The Olympics was not just a sports event, but would be Japan’s return into the global community after its ignoble defeat of World War II, and nothing could go wrong.

So authorities lay awake at night with the fear that foreigners would come to Japan and see kids in tight high-water pants hanging out in front of prestigious Ginza stores. Neighborhood leaders desperately wanted to eradicate the Miyuki-zoku before October, so they went to Ishizu of VAN and asked him to intervene. VAN organized a “Big Ivy Style Meet-up” at Yamaha Hall, and cops helped put 200 posters across Ginza to make sure the Miyuki-zoku showed up. Anyone who came to the event got a free VAN bag — which was the bag for storing your normal clothing during loitering hours. They expected 300 kids, but 2,000 showed up. Ishizu gave the keynote address, where he told everyone to knock it off with the lounging in Ginza. Most acquiesced, but not all.

So on September 19, 1964, a huge police force stormed Ginza and hauled off 200 kids in madras plaid and penny loafers. Eighty-five were processed at nearby Tsukiji jail. The kids got the message and never came back, and that was the end of the Miyuki-zoku.

The look was something like this:

Lingering in the Ginza, beneath the sign for Cristal "lunettes"

All this lead-up was by way of introducing the subject of end-of-semester student work from my class—much of which involves US college students looking at Japanese kids of a certain age…

My class @ UCLA this semester has focused on food cultures/narratives/politics in Japan. We found that there were a curious number of “coming-of-age” stories—not unlike those pictured above—routed through food. Some of the projects my students cooked up include:

  • carbohydrate nationalism! analysis of Yakitate Japan, an anime series about a young man’s quest to represent Japan in the international sphere through the awesomeness of Japanese bread—putting the “pan” (bread) back in Ja-pan.
  • smells like teenage spirits! uses of nostalgia in Miyazaki Hayao’s anime Spirited Away (千と千尋の神隠し)
  • of men and maggots! food as a catalyst for revolution in socialist realist texts (Battleship Potemkin, The Factory Ship)
  • chūka ryōri as augmented Chinese food—or how to eat China in modern Japan
  • mystery meets mystery meats! the appeal of mysterious foods in Tanizaki and others

 

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